When you’re eliminated from the fantasy football playoffs, the emotional stages of grief kick in, you start bargaining with God for a way to go back in time to make a roster change, you get angry, you don’t believe that you’re out of the playoffs, but you are. Maybe it was your hubris, maybe it was bad advice, maybe it was sheer dumb luck. Maybe hubris, bad advice or dumb luck actually worked out in your favor.
If you’re still in the fantasy football playoffs, we salute you. If you’ve been eliminated, we put our hands over our hearts and bid you adieu. Until next year.
Start of the Week
Matt Ryan: The Falcons are going to score on the 49ers in a number of ways. Maybe Freeman or Coleman will take a screen to the house, maybe Ryan will drop a dime on a wide-open Gabriel down the field. Even if Julio Jones is out, he’ll continue his top-3 fantasy season into the playoff semis.
Philip Rivers: When Philip Rivers and the Bolts visited Oakland earlier in the year, he threw 4 TDs and 2 interceptions. Nearly a 40-point day. Rivers can pick apart the (better but still not great) Oakland D again, and he’s absolutely worth the $6,200 price tag in Draft Kings. If he craps the bed, you can share Phillip Rivers Face memes on Twitter as your fantasy dreams swirl down the drain.
Tyrod Taylor: Weather permitting, Tyrod Taylor should be able to use this visit from Cleveland as a definitive reason why he shouldn’t be benched by his soon-to-be-jobless head coach. Cleveland has played better in the last month, but Taylor should be able to get it done on the ground and through the air. Sammy Watkins is back as a full-time receiver, and Ty-God knows that he’s the best part of the Bills offense. Hell, the Bills team.
This will happen again, whether Rex Ryan likes it or not!
Carson Palmer: He’s the poster boy for coming back down to earth after a career year, and his sub-par play has brought everyone down around him (besides David Johnson and to an extent, Larry Fitzgerald). He has played decently in the last 3 weeks, throwing 7 TDs to 3 interceptions, and now he will play the Saints who give up the 12th-most points to QBs this season. Palmer at home seems far safer than Drew Brees on the road right now, but consider him a DFS play if you’re out of it and are looking for Fantasy Fun™. If you’re in the final four, you probably don’t need to play Palmer unless you got here with Ryan Tannehill. If that’s the case — weird!
Andrew Luck: A ballsy hot take if there ever was one, but Pro Football Focus rated two of Luck’s offensive linemen as two of the 10-worst players of the week. He’s been under pressure all season, he’s got hands in his face, and now he’s playing Minnesota who is giving up the second-least points to QBs this season. Risky.
Drew Brees: This is a Week 15 fantasy column that has both Drew Brees and Andrew Luck as sits. Things are weird. This is fantasy football. Now, we have Drew Brees putting up two near single-digit games in a row. In Week 15, Brees visits Arizona (a top 5 defense against QBs), may still be missing Michael Thomas and in general isn’t looking great. Amazingly, Brees hasn’t thrown a touchdown in 2 games. He’ll probably throw one in Arizona, but he could continue his totally Bizarro Brees performances. Could Carson Palmer be a better play than Brees? Will the law of averages mean Brees is a must-play? Could Brees have a historic fantasy playoff meltdown that will be talked about for years to come?
Talk about conflicted feelings.
Marcus Mariota: He’s played extremely well this year, but Denver’s visit to Tennessee proved that Mariota is mortal, despite his impeccable red zone stats. Now he travels to the very cold Arrowhead Stadium to play the Chiefs. Gameflow could dictate a run-heavy funky offense for the Titans, and the Chiefs just shut down Derrick Carr and the Raiders. The Raiders have a pretty good passing attack. You may have heard.
WIDE RECEIVER STARTS
Taylor Gabriel: A wise man once said: don’t depend on TDs. But, you can depend on one more long one from Gabriel against the 49ers, right? It’ll either be a dump-off 60-yd TD or a nice little bomb. Right?
Malcolm Mitchell: The young receiver has the utmost trust of Tom Brady, and he’s what we wanted Brandon LaFell to be last season. Monday night’s game against Baltimore proved that Bennett, Hogan and of course, Edelman will get theirs too, but Mitchell has scored 4 TDs in his last 4 games and can be depended on as a WR3 with upside going forward into these all-important weeks.
Dontrell Inman: He’s done it for three weeks in a row, and this week he parlayed his 7 targets (19.4 percent target share) into his third double-digit game in a row. He did it against Carolina, who is giving up the second-most points to fantasy wide receivers, but he’s got Oakland and Cleveland on deck, and he seems like the #2 option in a San Diego offense that could get a little more pass-heavy without Melvin Gordon.
WIDE RECEIVER SITS
Golden Tate: He’s received a huge amount of targets in the last 2 months, but Matthew Stafford is dealing with torn ligaments in his throwing hand. He finished the game fine against the Bears on Sunday, but do you want to risk your chance at a spot in the finals on a receiver who is being thrown to by an injured QB? Marvin Jones is also back from injury, and Detroit is visiting the top 8 pass defense of the New York football Giants in Week 15.
Randall Cobb: Much ado has been made about the second-half resurgence of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense, but Cobb has merely been a TD-dependent component of the squad. Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery… Even James Starks and Jeff Jenis seem to be taking from Cobb, little by little, like a fantasy swagger Horcrux. The matchup against Chicago is enticing, but Cobb has seen 3 targets in his last two games, has an injured ankle, and can’t be depended upon as more than a WR 3 at best.
DeAndre Hopkins: This season has been an absolute disaster for Hopkins, who was expected to be a top-5 receiver coming into the year, but the “always play your studs” rule could lead to a disaster. Don’t play Hopkins. Bench him and keep him benched. In a favorable matchup against the Colts in Week 14, he caught 2 of 4 targets for 33 yards. That’s it. It’s over. Maybe next year? Maybe?
He can celebrate a win over a divisional opponent with the best of ’em, though.
RUNNING BACK STARTS
GB RB/WR Ty Montgomery: Green Bay has realized that they put a better offense on the field when Montgomery is playing. He had the most rushing touches against Seattle (9/41/1) and caught 3 passes for 45 yards. He’s the guy, and he’s still available in a majority of leagues. The Packers have the Bears in Week 15. You gotta like that.
The most important takeaway: he’s a running back. It’s official. Mike McCarthy revealed his official position (finally), on Monday. “He is a running back. I apologize for not making an announcement. He hasn’t been in a wide receiver meeting for months.”
Latavius Murray: Oakland’s clear-cut lead RB couldn’t come at a better time. He rushed the ball 22 times for 103 yards and a touchdown against Kansas City, with the only downside in the frigid Thursday Night shellacking being his single target. We’ll chalk it up to a negative game script, then roll Murray out as a top 12 option against San Diego, who is bottom-3 in points given up to opposing RBs.
Jeremy Hill: The train should keep on rolling for Hill, who rushed the ball 25 times and caught 3 passes against Cleveland. Pittsburgh’s defense has stiffened over the last month, but volume alone should keep Hill in the RB 2 range. Rex Burkhead isn’t threatening his playing time. Fun fact: Jeremy Hill is an extremely common name on Twitter that produces many interesting, NSFW things.
RUNNING BACK SITS
The Vikings RBs: Jerick McKinnon was decent in PPR leagues, putting up 12+ points. Asiata got the TD, now there are murmurs of an Adrian Peterson Week 15 comeback. If AP does come back, what does that even mean? Supposedly, he’s making cuts and practicing, so what if he gets 5 touches and that eats up a good 10-20 percent if Asiata and McKinnon’s workload? Yuck.
You’re better off with a pot of coffee and a pack of smokes you found lying on a table somewhere in California. Your season is done.
TIGHT END STARTS
Ladarius Green: I still believe. Not every game will feature Big Ben throwing 3 interceptions and Le’Veon Bell touching the ball 42 times. Green was actually second on the team in targets behind Antonio Brown with 6 targets (19.4 percent target share). If you don’t have a better option (Gronk owner), play him. The Bengals give up the third-most points to the TE position.
Zach Ertz: He’s becoming the dude in Philly, getting 13 targets (a whopping 28.3 percent target share) and hauling in 10 of his passes for 112 yards. The guy has 45 targets in his last 4 games. If you’re still hanging onto a Witten, Pitta, or Fleener, pick him up and get him starting. He’s very active. Baltimore has a great TE defense, but this volume should be able to penetrate.
Greg Olsen: This is a no-brainer start, but it’s been rough going over these last few weeks. He bounced back kinda against San Diego catching 4 for 87 yards, now he’s facing Washington who gives up the third-most points to TEs in the league. The 2016 Panthers, outside in the cold Monday night (ohhhhhhh Monday Night), seems like it has potential for a shootout or a confusing disaster. No one knows what they’re going to get out of Cam, but Olsen should be solid, especially at $5,000 in Draft Kings.
TIGHT END SITS
Dennis Pitta: It’s pretty weird to acknowledge that Pitta is a top-12 TE option in PPR leagues, he’s been so inconsistent, but here we are. He caught 3 passes for a grand total of 16 yards against New England Monday, now Baltimore is hosting the Eagles, who are giving up the 2nd-fewest points to TEs in the league. With Vance McDonald out and Witten fading, it’s tough. I know. Believe me, I know the pain of the TE position this year.
Coby Fleener: In the last 4 weeks, Fleener has seen 5, 4, 7, and 3 targets. His snaps are all over the place, with the injured Josh Hill playing in Week 14, now the Saints are traveling to Arizona, a top 3 defense against TE fantasty points allowed, and Drew Brees is playing bad football. Why risk it? There’s no situation in which you should do this.
Delanie Walker: See Mariota, Marcus. KC has is a top 5 defense in TW points allowed. He did dominate targets Sunday against Denver, getting 7 while no one else on the team got more than 3, but that didn’t do much when Walker only caught 2 passes for 30 yards. If you’re lucky enough to have an Ertz, Green or stashed Eifert during the year while also having Walker, this is a good time to bench your stud.
He probably should’ve had a TD on Sunday, though. To be fair.
NYJ RB Bilal Powell: The moment we’ve all been waiting for has seemingly come in the midst of the fantasy football playoffs — Matt Forte has injured his knee, now the job is Bilal Powell’s. The shifty runner parlayed that into 29 rushes for 145 yards and 2 TDs against the league’s worst run defense. If Forte is out, Powell will get a lot of work and enter the fantasy football history books as one of those weird names that ascended you to glory.
If you didn’t know Bilal Powell before this season, be aware that he’s just a kid from Lakeland and is blessed.
SD RB Kenneth Farrow: An MRI revealed a knee sprain and a hip sprain for Melvin Gordon, now a starting running back for an NFL team is available to all in week 15. If Gordon doesn’t play, Farrow should put up numbers similar to week 14, in which he rushed the ball 16 times for 55 yards and caught 6 passes for 23 yards. If he can get into the end zone he’s a top 24 back in PPR leagues. Get him. Ronnie Hillman is looking over his shoulder but got no work on Sunday.
TEN RB Derrick Henry: Amazingly, Henry is only 46 percent owned in Yahoo leagues, and is getting an increased workload as DeMarco Murray’s nagging little injuries pile up. Denver has been bleeding yards to opposing RBs, but Henry’s production has been consistently decent on the field. You have to handcuff Murray now, and Henry could be a decent flex if he gets more playtime in the next two weeks.
JAX WR Marqise Lee: Once again Marqise Lee was the best offensive player on the Jacksonville Jaguars. It’s time to get him in your lineup if you’re thin on WRs or need a solid flex. He’s locked-in for 7-8 targets and Blake Bortles is comfortable with him in the end zone. He’s facing the Texans on the road next week, but there’s garbage time potential if you need him.
Tony Romo: The Cowboys are 2 games up on the second-place Lions, and 2.5 up on Seattle. They’re basically a lock with 3 games to go. What if Dak sits? What if you need a QB in week 16 with your title hopes on the line?
DEN RB Justin Forsett: He was just signed just a few weeks ago, but Kubiak and the Broncos trust him in pass protection and it led to a concerning snap/touch count for Devontae Booker owners. The Broncos have the Pats and the Chiefs in the next two weeks, so the matchups aren’t amazing, but if Forsett gets the job, he could be a solid plugin. Booker owners need to get him.